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A View From Here SPECIAL REPORT >> Read the article

As someone with MS, here’s a candid review of handicap accessible areas in different ballparks. As an avid baseball fan, I always try to catch a ball game in whatever city I’m visiting. Only recently have I decided to watch games from disabled seating sections. It’s quite apparent that newer ball parks, built since the disabilities act, have a tremendous edge over older stadiums where handicap accessibility still appears to be a begrudging afterthought to abide by the new law.

Here are the recent ballparks I’ve reviewed taking advantage of my handicap:

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, MD)
Jacobs Field (Cleveland, OH)
Midway Stadium (St.Paul, MN)
Miller Park (Milwaukee, WI)
Metrodome (Minneapolis, MN)
Network Associates (Oakland, CA)
Pac Bell Park (San Francisco, CA)
Comerica Park (Detroit, MI)
PNC Park (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
This is the ballpark that started the retro trend in baseball stadiums. It combines the character and intimacy of the old yards with the comfort and convenience of the new. In short, its a beautiful place to enjoy the game. A limited number of wheelchairs are available for use during the game and the equal access seating lets you sit in about ten great locations throughout the park. People I spoke to really loved it. The restrooms and the concessions are very accessible. I personally appreciate the railing in the aisles that gave me great confidence going to my seat in the second row. Elevators are accessible to all of us disabled fans.

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Jacobs Field, Cleveland, OH
Jacobs Field is another great retro park built a few years after Camden Yards. Though I only spent one game there, the handicap sections seemed to have great views of the playing field. The elevators are run by people who are themselves disabled, so the Indians certainly are thinking of us. The concourses are even wider than Camden Yards and easy to negotiate. If I was going to rate this ballpark, Id give it 3 wheelchairs out of 4. Since I only caught one game at The Jake I may have missed something. Id love to hear the opinion of someone more familiar with the stadium. If you have comments, please send me an email and Id be happy to include it in my review.

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Midway Stadium, St. Paul, MN (Independent League)
This minor league ballpark is a great place to take in a game. Complete with entertainment between innings and a great emcee named Eric Webster – yes an emcee – I know it sounds crazy! Webster is very funny without ever taking away from the game. He constantly reminds the fans that this is outdoor baseball not like what goes on over in Minneapolis. As if on cue, the game I saw had a twenty-minute rain delay topped with a beautiful rainbow. You can’t get that indoors. In between innings we saw a game called “Chase the Child” in which a “convicted felon” chases a kid around the base paths. Just as he’s about to pass him, a cop runs out of the dugout, tackles the felon and handcuffs him to the accompaniment of the “Cops” theme song on the stadium organ. Eric reminds fans that this is a “no wave” zone, which is greatly appreciated by those fans seated in wheelchairs. If you must do the wave, Eric suggests going ten-miles to the Metrodome and doing it indoors. Everyone in the ballpark seems to be in on the joke. The handicap section itself isn’t very fancy, but it does the job. You can see everything from the disability area that runs between the field boxes and the grand stands.

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Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI
The Loge level has 20 handicap sections that stretch down the lines into the concourse sections. The field level has about 22 handicap sections. The top level, or the Terrace Level, has plenty of handicap seats and the further in the outfield you go, the higher up it seems to be. It’s beautiful when the dome is open and comfortable when the dome is closed. The concourse is wide and easy to negotiate whether in a wheelchair or on foot. Like all the new ballparks, the restrooms and concessions are always nearby. And unlike Dodger Stadium, there are enough elevators for everyone. The best location is behind home plate -- on the field level -- where you are protected from the sun during a hot, Sunday afternoon game. Unfortunately, this beautiful ballpark is stuck with the Brewers as the home team, one handicap they can never overcome.

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The Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
The handicap section I saw was in front of the press box behind the field level. If you enter the park in a wheelchair, they’ll take you in a lift right up to the section. The temperature is kept at a moderate 72 degrees. Getting out of the place is a pain whether you’re in a chair or just wobbly on your feet. The game itself was an inter-league rivalry between the Twins and the Brewers. I don’t know for sure, but I am willing to bet that about one-third of the 25,000 attendees didn’t even know they were watching an inter-league game. After all…the Brewers have only been in the National League for a few years and have made little or no dent at all.

Here’s an e-mail I received with a more in-depth perspective on the Metrodome’s handicap accessibility from a partial season ticket holder:

Hi David-

My 5-year-old son, Andrew, has spina bifida, and is in a wheelchair. This, however, has not stopped us from attending our favorite pastime, baseball games.

This is the second year Andrew and I have had a partial season ticket (20 games) for the Minnesota Twins. The much maligned Metrodome has been great for us, and has good accessible facilities. Every section in the upper deck has four fully accessible seats, with eight companion seats. The accessible seats are all in the first row of the second level and have great ramp access from the wide corridors. Our seats are in Section 228, between the mound and the plate on the third base side. There are also accessible seats right behind home plate in front of the press box in the lower level. To get to these seats, they have installed an elevator that takes fans down what would be five or six steps to the seat level. Also in the lower level, there are seats right next to the visitor’s bullpen down the right field line. These are also front row seats that are reached through the bowels of the stadium, and up a field access ramp.

The Twins have been wonderful in helping us enjoy the games. We have not encountered any situations that made attending or viewing a game difficult. We have accessible parking right across the street from the stadium – right at our gate. Andrew loves going, but was disappointed last fall when your Angels beat the Twins.

We have also had wonderful luck going to games in Milwaukee at the new Miller Park, as well as the Independent Northern League St. Paul Saints Midway stadium. We will continue our baseball pilgrimages, so we will keep you up to date, and will use your site as a guide as well.

Best of luck to you in your continued battle with MS.

Thanks for all the years of laughs as well.

Sincerely,

Brad

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Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, CA
Typical of multipurpose stadiums build in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the sections for people with disabilities were definitely not in the original plans. The handicap seats I had were protected from the elements (i.e. under the overhang). They are near enough the restrooms and concessions to be convenient, but there still seems to be more steps than ramps. And none of these steps, as far as I can see, have any railings to make the stairs more manageable. While the section I saw may be OK for baseball, I couldn’t tell you how it would be for football. The A’s have tried very hard to make things work despite being handicapped themselves by Raider’s owner Al Davis.

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Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, CA
This is the ballpark that does things right. The section I sat in right behind the field club seats, around home plate and in front of the press box is elevated just enough so you have a great view of everything. There’s a ramp that twists and turns from the concourse level, not far from the restrooms, which The Giants humbly boast as the “biggest restrooms in baseball.” The only problem could be the long line for garlic fries which you need to navigate around (from my seat) to get to the john. Here’s a breakdown of where all the 67 handicap sections are at Pac Bell Park:

Handicap sections at
Pac Bell Park
5
  Field Club
20
  Lower Box
8
  AAA Club Level
20
  View Level Box
3
  Left Field Lower Box
6
  Bleachers
5
  Arcade


It also helps that when they designed the place, they interviewed ticket holders from the old handicap seats at 3Com Park to find out what didn’t work. This time they got it right.

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Comerica Park in Detroit, MI
The handicap seat I had was in the left field section on the lower level. Pretty good view, but I had to walk down ten steps to get to my seat. Early in the game, it started to rain so I had to climb the stairs to get to shelter – I don’t know how people would do this if they were in a wheelchair. These seats are exposed to the elements and from what people tell me, when it gets hot and sunny it’s no picnic. In all fairness, because of the weather, I didn’t get to see any other handicap sections, which I hope there are many. Someone did tell me there is a ramp in left field that leads to an elevator to help you get around, but this same person also told me that come July when it gets hot, you’re gonna melt – not a good selling point for those of us with MS.

These are just the first three. Hopefully I will review many more in the coming months and years. If you have any reviews you would like to share, please e-mail me your account.

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PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA
There have been three home fields for the Pittsburgh Pirates in my lifetime (Im 58). Forbes Field from 1909 until 70, Three Rivers Stadium from 70 to 2000, and since the spring of 2001 the Bucs have made beautiful PNC Park their home. I remember Forbes Field pretty well; I saw about 20 games there. Im pretty certain that the accessibility was, at best, do-it-yourself. Three Rivers had to be better after they passed the Disability Act in 81.

When they built PNC Park, they made accessibility an art form. Wheelchair seating is all over the ballpark and in all price locations. All concession stands are belly up, meaning that all concession counters are built to accessible heights. There are electrical outlets at wheelchair locations providing opportunities for battery charging, ventilators, etc.

When they gave me my seats for the game, they were in what they call the danger zone, 30 feet from third base. And Ive got to admit, I didnt want to sit there because I thought Id get hit in the head with a ball, but I certainly was close to the field. I eventually moved to handicap seats behind home plate in the last row of the infield boxes, and it was perfect—concessions and bathrooms galore! So if you need a hot dog or need to pee, you can do them both without missing a pitch.

The Bucs made the right move when they called Accessibility Development Associates to work with the architect, H.O.K., in building the ballpark. Its one of those new parks where you can see from everywhere. Id personally like to thank them for putting a rail down the aisle leading to my seat. And 14 elevators certainly help a lot too. At Dodgers Stadium they only have two. So PNC is a great place for upward mobility.

P.S.—If you have any personal stories about your experiences with accessibility seating in any ballpark, good or bad, dont hesitate to write me. You never know, it could end up on my Web site one day.



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